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Ghosts: A Christian’s Perspective – Part 1
Have you ever lived in a haunted house? I have – or at least I think I have.
I was born and raised in a small Maryland town just outside of Washington DC. It was a good home. It was a Christian home. It was the type of home that many would love to have grown up in. But it could be a strange home, especially at night.
During my youth, I had become accustomed to hearing the sounds of breathing when no one was around. The creaking of stairs when no one was on them. The feel of someone sitting down on the edge of the bed, though I was all alone.
One fateful night, I was privileged to witness my maternal grandfather lean out of a picture to look at me.
Even my mother, after years of denial, eventually confessed that she, too, had heard things ‘go bump in the night.’
These paranormal activities continued unabated for many years; well up into my adult life. They abruptly stopped after my parents had some major renovations done to the house.
I had spent much of my childhood watching the old Universal Studios’ versions of monsters, so I thought I knew all there was to know about vampires, werewolves, mummies and, of course, ghosts. Afterall, I had a Ouija board and I knew how to conduct séances. What more was there to know?
But that was many years ago, and today’s youths are more accustomed to things much worse than what I could ever have imagined in those days.
Today, ghosts and the paranormal in general are enjoying a media revival. Turn on the television and you can see programs such as Paranormal Witness, True Blood, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventurers, Ghost Mine, The Haunted Collector, The Walking Dead and many, many more. We have become so desensitize by true life events, which in themselves are horrific, that movies such as The Exorcist, Friday the Thirteenth and The Chainsaw Massacre are pale in comparison to today’s Hollywood money makers such as the Saw series, My Bloody Valentine, The Unborn or The Woman in Black.
As a society, we have become obsessed with the paranormal. It would appear that more and more people today would like to be able to say “I see dead people” as Cole did in The Sixth Sense.
Not only is the paranormal becoming more and more popular, it is also becoming more and more acceptable. The world is becoming comfortable with horoscopes, spells, fortune telling, Tara cards, Ouija boards, and so much more.
Since the time of antiquity, ghosts have been around. Every culture and every nation across this earth has stories describing things that go bump in the night. Stories telling tales of rattling chains, loathsome moans, shadows stealthily moving from room to room, the sound of footsteps creeping across the floor and so forth have been told from time immemorial.
There are stories of ghostly hitchhikers. There are stories of old Victorian style houses where vague images can be seen wafting down staircases. There are stories of old gangsters and mafia members who still occupy their cellblocks. No matter where we are, from rural areas to major cities, stories of the unseen abound.
We hang on every word of these stories. We seem to have an uncanny connection with these unseen entities. A tear sometimes may fall when we hear the voice of a child crying softly in an old deserted nursery. Maybe our hairs stand up on the back of our necks as we feel someone watching us as we go about our daily routine.
No matter what it may be, these stories are used to entertain us, scare us or even to mislead us.
From Casper to the Bell Witch, ghosts have fascinated us. But what are ghosts? According to The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), a ghost is defined as “the image of a person witnessed after his/her death, reflecting the appearance of the living, physical body yet less substantial. These forms often seem to exist in a dream-like state of semi-awareness, at time though not always cognizant of their human observers.” The dictionary further defines a ghost as “the soul of a dead person, a disembodied spirit imagined, usually as a vague, shadowy or evanescent form, as wandering among or haunting living persons.”
Ghosts have been around for thousands of years, however during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, and with the advent of the scientific method, the belief in ghosts declined. Ghosts were consigned to the world of superstition and folklore.
During the early 19th century, a re-insurgence in the interest of paranormal activity began in America. The Fox sisters – Leah, Margaret and Kate – claimed that they were able to communicate with spirits through a series of rappings. Although Margaret confessed their claims were falsified, and even publicly demonstrated the technique that they had used, their reputation had already been cemented in public opinion and the spiritualist movement had been born.
In light of all this, we need to start asking ourselves “What are we doing?”
Churches seem to circumvent around the subject of ghosts and the paranormal. It could be that pastors do not realize how widespread these beliefs are or they just don’t take them seriously. Christians need to get the word out. So many people believe in ghosts, or are confused about them, and the only information that is out there about the spirit world comes from movies, TV or the Internet. Paranormal investigators do not hesitate to inform as many people as they can, and we as Christians should not hold back either.
The Bible does support the fact that a person who has died becomes a spirit, but it does not support what is called a haunting. A haunting involves the manifestation of a ghostly presence that is attached to a specific locale. In other words, the dead person (ghost) must somehow make an appearance in the physical world in order for it to be classified as a haunting.
The Bible is quite clear. Although there are spirits, they either cannot come back or they are not allowed to come back to this world.
In Isaiah 26:14 we read, “they are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise… ” The Message puts it more bluntly: “The dead don’t talk, ghosts don’t walk… “
There is a wonderful story in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus tells (Luke 16:19-31). It is the story of two men who has died; one rich and the other poor. In the story the poor man, whose name is Lazarus, has gone to Paradise and is resting in the arms of Abraham. The rich man, whose name is not mentioned, has gone to hell and is suffering in flames.
In the story, the rich man can see Lazarus resting in the arms of Abraham, and he asks Abraham if he would send someone to his living relatives in order to warn them about what awaits them after death. Not once does the rich man ask Abraham if he could leave himself in order to warn his relatives. This seems to indicate that people in hell cannot leave and interact with the living.
Why? Abraham answers this by declaring, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Put differently, if we don’t hear what Moses and the other prophets are telling us in the Bible, then seeing a ghost would not convince us either.
We have something better than a ghost coming back from the dead… we have the Word of God. The very Word of God warns us of hell and its torments. It teaches that every one of us has an opportunity to make a decision for Christ and Salvation. If we don’t pay heed to these warnings that we already have, then chances are we won’t listen to a ghost either. There are people in this world that will refuse to listen to the truth no matter what form it may appear in.
Knowing what we now know about the unjust in hell, we need to now ask ourselves about the righteous dead. Are they allowed to interact with the living?
Our story does not come out and say directly whether they can or cannot. In fact, the story does seem to indicate that they can, but are not allowed to do so. But why would this be?
The Bible tells us that to be absent from the body is to be with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8). If this is so, then when a believer dies, he immediately finds himself with the Lord. This being the case, why would anyone ever want to come back?o
My mom said it better than I ever could. “If you go to Heaven, you don’t want to come back. If you go to the other place, you can’t come back.”
So if this is the case, then who or what are we seeing and talking to?
Knowing that ghosts are not the spirits of the dead, since they either can not come back or are not allowed to come back, then it is reasonable to assume that there must be some other types of spirits that are interacting with the living.
Ephesians 6:12 states that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
According to Scripture there are two types of spirits; righteous ones and evil ones. The righteous spirits are usually referred to as angels of light or messengers of God, while the evil spirits are referred to as demons or fallen angels. Each of these categories can then be broken down into their own individual hierarchy and levels. Angels of light can be called archangels, seraphim, cherubim or just angels while evil spirits can be called principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, seducing spirits, demons or fallen angels.
Spirits are either good or evil: of God or of the Devil.
There are many stories in the Bible that speak of angels. Angels came and talked to Abraham and Lot (Genesis 18 and 19). An angel appeared unto Zacharias to tell him of the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:26-15) and again unto Mary to tell her of the upcoming pregnancy and birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26-31).
These angels always look like other men when they appear, and that is exactly what people who claim to have seen a ghost say; that they look like men or women who were once alive. They look like relatives who have passed on, or famous people. This is why so many people really believe that what they see are actually the spirits of the dead come back from beyond the grave. But since angels appear in the form of man, could the spirits that people call ghosts actually be angels?
The Bible tells us to “try (test) the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). In testing these spirits, we more often than not find that a haunting is usually associated in one way or another with violence, horror, pain and/or evil. Battlefields and prisons are prime examples. Likewise, séances tend to have darkness associated with them, and even psychics are speaking to those who have had some sort of violence or evil befall them; such as a victim of a crime.
When comparing these facts with the appearances of angels as recorded in the Bible, we find very few similarities between the two. Angel appearances bring news of the will of God to humans, while a haunting is usually a frightening experience that will trouble, confuse and terrify people.
People who see apparitions say that they look like people who had once lived. Although the Bible says that angels have taken on the form of man, it never says that they are recognized as people that have died. Sometimes they are not even recognized as angels. The writer of Hebrews told us that we should entertain strangers “for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” If this is the case and an angel appeared as a loved one, we wouldn’t consider them a stranger or be unaware of their spiritual origin.
Also these spirits that are being seen and spoken to have never discussed the Bible or talked about salvation. If they were angels, at some point, one would think, this topic would arise.
Since we have argued that there are only two types of spirits – righteous and evil – and we have decided that they cannot be angels (righteous spirits), then the only other possible conclusion is that the spirits that are being seen and spoken to are evil spirits.
As was said earlier, haunted sites are more than likely associated with violence and death. Because of this, evil spirits have cumulated in these areas. Events such as accidents or evil deeds (such as a murder) have allowed Satan’s demons to be present. When a person dies, that spirit can remain.
These evil spirits, in the King James Version of the Bible, are call familiar spirits (see Leviticus 13:31, 20:6, Deuteronomy 18:11, I Samuel 28:3, 9, II Kings 21:9, 23:24). The reason that they are called familiar spirits is because they have become familiar with the person who has died. These spirits know of these people’s lives and habits and can impersonate them. In other words, when people say that they have seen or talked to someone who has died, what they really are seeing or talking to is an evil spirit that was familiar enough with the deceased that they were able to masquerade themselves as that person in order to deceive the living.
Keep in mind that spirits, whether good or evil, are watching us. They are curious about mankind. I Peter 1:12 talks about what Christ has done for mankind and that the angels desire to look into these things. The spirit world knows much about the human race – much more than what we would be comfortable with if we knew the half of it.
Why then should evil spirits haunt us? Why would they frighten people? Why do they impersonate the dead? Why do they help psychics solve crimes? Why do they help fortune-tellers and mediums foretell the future?
We must remember who and what we are talking about. We are talking about evil spirits, and they are the enemy, and the enemy’s main goal is to deceive God’s children. Satan will use any tool that he can in order to accomplish his task: and these tools can and do include confusion, misdirection, deception and scare tactics.
The Bible tells us that Satan is “a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).
Satan’s goal is to deceive as many people as he possibly can.
The Bible also warns “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (II Corinthians 11:14-15).
If you saw a ghost of a loved one, what would you do? Would you be frightened? What if that ghost told you to do something that is unbiblical? And what if something good happened due to the message that you received from that ghost? Would you then be more incline to listen the next time you received a message? Remember that deception and confusion are the main reasons that familiar spirits interact with the human race.
In a paranormal show I was watching one night, I noticed that the client who had hired the investigators had told them that he had believed that after death a person went either to heaven or hell. But after seeing the “evidence” that the ghost hunters had obtained, he had changed his mind. Satan and his demons had done their job in deceiving this man into believing a lie.
The Bible gives us very clear warnings about communicating with the dead. Isaiah 8:19 tells us “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and the mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? For the living to the dead?” Instead of consulting with mediums and spiritualists, who whisper and mutter, we should be consulting God. After all, why consult the dead on behalf of the living? We have no need to consult with the dead because we have the One who created it all – including the spirits. Remember that the living God loves and cares for us all and is more powerful and wise than any of His creations.
Also keep in mind that the practices of speaking with familiar spirits, divination, sorcery, etc. are totally abhorrent to God. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 gives us a stiff warning about this… “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.”
In plain English, anyone who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, casts spells, is a medium or spiritualist and consults with the dead are detestable to the Lord. Not a pleasant thing.
But there’s more… Leviticus 20:6 says, “And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.” And Leviticus 20:27, “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.”
These verses are clear warnings to God’s people. Spirits are all around us. They are everywhere; both evil and good. There is a war going on, and we are in the midst of it.
But keep in mind…
Familiar spirits will seldom, if ever, speak of Jesus and Salvation. You will never hear an EVP talk about hell, judgment or repentance. A spirit’s main purpose is to deceive. They want people to believe that the afterlife is a wonderful place where there are no consequences for sin. They will lull many people into a false sense of security, and when these people die, they will go to hell because they did not repent and put their faith in Jesus.
As a Christian, you can never be possessed or taken over by an evil spirit. After all, the Holy Spirit that lives within you protects you. The Blood of Christ is shielding you from such things. However, you can be attacked by, confused by, tempted by or physically defeated by the enemy. It would be plain foolish for anyone, even a Christian, to purposely place himself in such a situation.
If you purposely walk into their presence, you will be attacked. You are their enemy and you are walking in their territory. You are simply asking for trouble. Not only are you asking for trouble, but you are also tempting God, and as Jesus said unto the devil, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7).
If any spirits teach or say things that are in opposition to Biblical teachings, stay away; even if it looks like your dear sweet mother. Just because a dearly departed loved one was a born again Christian does not mean that a familiar spirit cannot impersonate that person.
Television, movies and books all say different things about this subject. The only place to know the truth is to find it in the book of truths – the Bible. Paul tells us that we should study to show ourselves approved, to be able to rightly divide the Word (2 Timothy 2:15).
You have the answers to life’s question right at your fingertips. You can know about spirits and know the truth just by opening up His Word and reading His answers.
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” – 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
In part 2, we will take a look at the Witch of Endor
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